I am so fortunate to have met many great people over the past few months that like me, are just starting to get their businesses off the ground. One couple in particular own a Spanish cultural exchange program for adults called Exchanging Cultures. We actually play volleyball together and one week we started talking about the value of going back to school to get an MBA.
For years I’ve been torn on this issue but in short, I’ve basically decided that first-hand experience beats textbook reading any day. And while the networking factor may tip the scales in the opposite direction, being debt-free tips them right back and then some!
So instead of pursuing a formal MBA I am always on the lookout for ways to self-educate and strengthen my weaker areas. Below is a list of resources I sent to Kristi and Santi in the hopes that they too would benefit from some self-education and save themselves some hard-earned cash.
What books, websites, groups, etc. have you found beneficial? Let me know if you find any of the following helpful and if there are any resources you’ve come across yourselves.
Here’s my list of resources for Chicago entrepreneurs for startups and business owners looking for ways to self-educate as they get started.
I’m a HUGE fan of audiobooks and I listened to Personal MBA while running quite often. I could see how that might actually seem worse than running but it helps me keep my mind off of the actual running 😉 This book is chock-full of all sorts of actionable business information. The website has a phenomenal list of resources as well! I actually want to listen to this again to catch some things I may have missed. Personal MBA
Coursera offers free online classes from top universities around the world! I’m currently taking a class called “Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part 1” that hasn’t officially started yet so you may be able to still join as well. Many of the videos are already available and while I’m in no real position just yet to grow beyond myself and the occasional freelancer, the information and case studies here are invaluable. For this particular class, the instructor is quirky and cracks me up on occasion which helps so much when you’re talking about what could be a serious, dry business topic. Anyways, there’s all sorts of classes from Accounting, to Science, to Philosophy, etc. Coursera
Built in Chicago
Ah yes… the “People Magazine” of the Chicago startup community. Generally this is more for technology-focused businesses but I don’t see why non-tech companies couldn’t promote through blog posts here as well. Give it a look and see if it seems like a community you’d like to participate in. If nothing else, there is a lot of great business, investing, and other startup information here. I also find this a great place to quickly get up to speed on what I call “startup gossip”— who bought whom, what company started a new competitor app that I need to keep an eye on, who executed a successful exit, who’s hiring for what positions, etc. (This is what I follow instead of celebrity gossip. I know… I’m a nerd and I’m okay with that) BIC also holds a “Launch” every month where a few startups get to pitch their company to a full house of peers and potential investors. Good crowd but very crowded. Another great monthly event that I’ve heard nothing but great things about is Technori. This is definitely on my list of to-do’s in the coming months. Built in Chicago
Crave is an entrepreneurial network focused on woman-owned businesses. I’m not a member of this yet but as soon as I’m ready to really get “out there” I’m going to join. They have events each month and the network is high quality and really tight-knit. These ladies mean business! I may join soon anyways just to get to know the community better and it definitely wouldn’t hurt to get some pitch practice. Pitches and being forced to talk about yourself (and your business) are great ways to light a fire under your ass! I digress… I highly, highly recommend Crave—tons of smart women that want nothing more than to help you out and see you be successful. Can’t beat that right? Fellas, they’ll welcome you as well but get used to being way out-numbered at events. A little role-reversal is good for the soul sometimes. 😉 Crave Chicago
If there’s a community or interest that you’re looking for then you’ll probably find it here. From a Bootstrappers Breakfast, to a Lean Startup Circle, to whatever you can imagine someone has a group that you can learn something from. I won’t however, mince words here—some groups suck. So you have to take a close look to find one that will be most beneficial for you and not waste your precious time. Good indicators of a quality group incude: recent events and scheduled upcoming events. Startup Boot Camp may not be a bad one to check out (hosted at the nest resource on my list, Next Door Cafe). I’ve always liked their presentations. Next Door Cafe is a really neat place too so I never mind going there 🙂 Meetup.com
Next Door Cafe
This is a cafe sponsored by State Farm. Yes, the insurance people. I know, it it seems like an odd combination but this is actually my favorite place to work when I’m not working from my home office. This cafe is great for it’s entrepreneurial ambiance and cozy meeting spaces that you can reserve. I’ve held business meetings here before and I could not have been happier. They hold events quite often and might be a great place for you to either learn something new or share your own knowledge. Check out their event schedule for business events that may be the most helpful for you. Next Door
An educational marketplace where folks just like you and I can teach others and share our expertise. I have yet to go to a class through this organization but it’s been recommended to me countless times. I even plan to teach a few content marketing courses through Dabble myself. The greatest thing about Dabble is that there are a ton of classes available on all sorts of topics. It’s worth checking out to see if there’s something you’d like to learn… even if it’s knitting 😉 There’s a PR 101 class that I might do the next time it’s offered just to see what it’s like. Dabble